As an agency, we’ve been designing websites since 2009. Back then, a lot of people and businesses were only getting into web for the first time. Nowadays, these same people (as well as new businesses) are making significant investments in order to take things to the next level and set themselves apart from competitors. 2009 is such a long time ago, what are we focusing on today?

What does great website design look like in 2018?

In order to drive a great website design project today, you must do the following: understand your customers (CX and UX), add value (new tech) and integrate (drive results). I’ll go into a little more detail about each.

Understand your customers

User experience is an integral part of the design process — from early concepts to the final product. It’s important because it fulfills a user’s needs and provides positive experiences that keep users loyal to your brand, when done right. Here’s how to get started with UX for a website.

Step 1: Do your research. It’s impossible to create a great website if you don’t know who you’re making it for. Before anything else, do your research and get a deep understanding of the customers your website will be serving. What is their life like? What do they want to achieve through your site? What tools/tech do they use? What does ‘great’ look like to them?

Step 2: Create personas. After some in-depth research you can create accurate ‘personas’. Personas are a snapshot of your target audience(s). They simplify the requirements of core users while still being rich enough to accurately guide real decision making. The key elements of a persona are the core demographics, their typical behaviours, pain points and their personal needs and goals.

Step 3: Journey mapping. Once your personas have been defined, we need to understand the journey that each persona takes when they are making purchase decisions. This helps to define your site map and understand how features can be utilised. To do this consider the following questions;

  1. Actions – what does a user need to move to the next step
  2. Questions – what needs to be answered before a user can move to the next step
  3. Happy moments – positive things that improve the user’s experience on the website
  4. Pain points – frustrations/annoyances that spoil the experience
  5. Opportunities – design enhancements that address any of these pain points

(In some instances, focus groups who fit persona descriptions are invited to online exercises to work out features that are most important to them or ways they find things on the site. It’s a great way of testing and validating user journeys and building a site map.)

Step 4: Wireframes. From the sitemap we can then design wireframes which define functionally how the site works and how content is laid out. For significant builds, we make a high fidelity wireframe prototype. These actually look like a simplified version of the website which you can click on and move around in. This allows you to get a good idea of how the website will work and flow before you get into detailed design and development.

By following these steps you should be able to create something that works and adds value too, which brings it to our next point.

Add value

Adding value is the central objective of any big website design project. And it’s more than just redesigning an old site — it’s about using new technology and tools to make something better. Developing new ways to deliver great customer service and adding value is one of our key principles, and for us, this is arguably more important than advertising.

The fact is, we’re in a world that is oversaturated with advertising and we are very good at tuning it out. So it’s more important than ever to create genuinely helpful services that deliver new kinds of value. We like to think of companies that have this approach as ‘gravity brands’ — they pull you in, rather than just pushing advertising messages out all the time.

One of the ways we look to add more value is by ensuring we use the latest tech. Three key pieces of tech that we are exploring are:

Augmented reality and virtual reality

AR/VR applications have the power to show us the world in a different way or transport us to a new place. We’re continuing to do more research and development in this space, but some early examples of our work in AR/VR can be seen in these campaigns for 2degrees and Wither Hills.

Chatbots/AI/Voice

Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing how we interact with websites. Natural language processing platforms are making it easy to develop and deploy chatbots that can handle simple customer service requests. These tools have the potential to reengineer the services we deliver to customers and how we interact them. This Google Duplex AI demonstration at the latest Google IO conference is an example of what leading voice applications can do. A much simpler example is how we used bots to help people enter a competition for Speights Ultra. We also used them to help drive more donations for Shave for a Cure. A good chatbot can help deliver an additional layer of personalised communication to help build an emotional connection with your brand.

WebGL

This is a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 2D and 3D graphics within any compatible web browser — without the use of plugins. This means we can now include 3D graphics on web pages in real time for people to interact with. This makes the display of 3D objects and their interaction much easier, opening up possibilities for applications and education. This Weber product page will give you the idea of what WebGL can do. They key here is that a rich WebGL experience will help your customers get the a more realistic almost physical interactive experience virtually.

Integration

Last, integrate your website so it’s not a standalone island. Integrating with CRM and marketing automation systems allows you to grow or personalise experiences. Other integrations improve digital smarts, like dialog flow for natural language processing or location services to geo-target relevant content or bring a new context to users. The other thing you must not skip is integration with analytics, tagging, and conversion tracking systems. This will help bring visibility to your advertising effectiveness. Combined, all these things enables you to drive more performance.

Let’s wrap this up now

Launching a new website isn’t something you can just do and forget. A high-performing website is a constant evolution — conversion rates are tracked, experiments and optimisation plans are made, and new enhancements are added to a backlog list. An agile approach to website design and development ensures that you move ahead, rather than finding yourself back at the start and lagging behind competitors in 18 months.

One last, but the important thing to consider for your website are the GDPR regulations that have recently come into force. GDPR compliance is now law for the entire EU, but it also applies to anyone who gets and collects data from EU customers. The requirements aren’t as scary as they sound and really provide a good framework to review your data and privacy management standards. There’s a fresh article about GDPR compliance on our site.

So that’s it. Find out more about our how we could help by checking out our website design services or look at some of our case studies.